Hipgnosis, the UK music publishing company, has acquired the rights to Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine’s back catalogue of production royalties spanning albums by John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith and U2.
It is the latest catalogue signed by Hipgnosis which is in the vanguard of a group of specialist funds — including Round Hill and Primary Wave — hoovering up the rights to old songs.
The value of back catalogues has risen sharply in the past five years on the back of the streaming boom, which has tempted more artists and songwriters to cash in on their royalties by selling their rights to specialist funds or, as was the case with Bob Dylan, major record labels.
Mr Iovine made his name as a producer in the 1970s and 1980s working with a range of artists including Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Dire Straits, Boom Crash Opera and Stevie Nicks on some of the biggest selling albums of the era.
He founded Interscope Records, a label at the heart of the emerging West Coast hip hop scene in the 1990s, and established the Beats headphones and streaming brand with Dr Dre which was sold to Apple for $3bn in 2014, making them both billionaires. Mr Iovine then led Apple Music as it took on Spotify.
Hipgnosis, which was founded by Merck Mercuriadis, has acquired Mr Iovine’s worldwide producer royalties comprising 259 songs as well as his film production royalties for the Eminem movie 8 Mile and the 50 Cent feature Get Rich or Die Tryin’, its first foray into movie rights. It did not disclose what it had paid for the rights.
Producer royalties, often dubbed “points” in the industry, are paid to high-profile producers that work with labels and artists to turn songs into hit records in lieu of a songwriter credit. The producer cut is taken out of the record royalty and could be very lucrative on a hit album or song accounting for up to 5 per cent of sales in some deals.
Mr Iovine said he would use the proceeds to build a school in south Los Angeles. “I’m happy that my work as a producer with so many great artists has found the right home with Merck and Hipgnosis,” he said.
Hipgnosis, which has spent more than £1.2bn on the rights to 58,000 songs, said in December it was in active discussions over a pipeline of new catalogue deals with a value of £1bn and would look to raise new funds to land those rights.